So you’ve done the groundwork: ditched your iFrame menu, listed on Google My Business, and started dabbling in backlinks. But you’re ready to enter the belly of the SEO beast and it’s time to kick things up a notch. It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this guide.
Your eCommerce site needs to be organized for shoppers as well as search engines. When planning your website structure, consider these tips:
Ultimately, users need to be able to use your website without any friction. A friendly user interface is paramount for your website experience. Additionally, a good website structure pleases Google, too, as its easier to crawl and index pages.
We recommended keeping related topics and content grouped together, and highlighting the most important pages by placing them at the top of your navigation bar. Don't overthink it; keep the structure simple and logical.
Adding breadcrumbs are a great way to keep your site navigation organized, as well. Check with your e-commerce provider to see if they support this feature or if you can build it custom.
A sitemap is a file that contains information about where to find the important pages and assets on your website. Dispense generates and keeps up-to-date XML sitemaps, so search engine crawlers can efficiently crawl and index those pages in search results.
When looking at a website URL, it normally starts with HTTP. However, securing your website changes this to HTTPS. This is achieved through SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, an internet security protocol that encrypts a website and its information. Authenticating your website's identity with an SSL certificate is essential to protect customer data, and is also rewarded by Google via higher search rankings.
For a valid SSL certificate, it must be purchased from a certificate authority (CA). CA's are trusted, third-party organizations that distribute and cosign SSL certificates. Most CA's will charge for the service. By purchasing an SSL certificate from a CA, you are confirming to Google and users that your site is authentic, on top of the encryption an SSL certificate offers.
Thankfully, all of this work can be bypassed with Dispense. Dispense automatically keeps your site and your data secure with SSL encryption to protect you from security threats like phishing scams and data breaches.
Let’s tackle keywords. These are the words and phrases consumers are entering into search engines to find your website. “Dispensary near me” seems like a naturally good place to start, but there is a lot more valuable keyword goodness to uncover. Do some digging into keyword research using tools like SEMRush and Google Keyword Planner. These tools will show you the search volume for these keywords, as well as related keywords.
Thorough keyword research will enable you to develop a keyword strategy for your dispensary. Include popular short-tail, long-tail, and local keywords and phrases into content on your website. We suggest focusing on keywords with high search volume, little competition, and a low cost-per-click (CPC).
Dispense kicks off your keyword strategy from the jump. Automating all product, category and brand page creation, Dispense creates thousands of pages of content automatically to start building your rankings as soon as you set up your menu.
Once you’ve gathered your top-performing keywords, it’s time to put them to use on your website. You’ll want to add more text to your website beyond just your About Us page or Locations section. Starting a dispensary is an undertaking in itself, but once your daily operations are in step, consider creating a blog on your dispensary website. This will give you plenty of space to experiment with your keyword strategy and reap the benefits of organic search.
Some blog topic ideas…
When creating this content, beware of keyword stuffing – which is precisely what it sounds like: putting in as many keywords as possible in hopes to win the organic search game. Google can sniff out this kind of foul play easily and may penalize your website with a shadowban, so tread lightly.
Be sure to keep keyword usage down to 2-3 times per blog post, and sprinkle them into the page title, too. The URL for the blog should be clean and also include a few keywords. For example:
This guide’s URL ends in /blog/dispensary-seo-advanced-guide which identifies the category and a clear title.
Optimizing SEO with content will greatly improve your organic search traffic, but it does take time and effort. Fortunately, this task can be outsourced to agencies like Cannabis Creative Group which offers an entire suite of different marketing services specifically tailored to the cannabis community.
In short, structured data helps search engines understand the content of your website. By using a standardized format (Schema markup is popular), you can place additional information about the content of any given page.
As a dispensary, you may want to create markup for the location page like operating hours, the storefront address, and contact details. Adding markup for your FAQ page, if you have one, is also a common tactic that dispensaries do.
Search engines then use the markup you’ve added to display rich snippets and other enhancements in search results. This makes the search experience a bit easier and more appealing for users to find what they're looking for.
Not convinced that structured data works? Google reports that Rotten Tomatoes added structured data to 100,000 pages and saw a 25% higher click-through rate for pages that used structured data, compared to pages without it.
How do you create it? There are plenty of free tools out there, such as Merkle’s markup generator. Once you’ve inputted your data, the markup can be placed in the <body> of the page it goes with. You can also test your markup with the Schema validator tool that will check it for errors.
Key items to include on product pages include: reviews, ratings, pricing, offers, and images. If implemented properly, these items should show up in the SERP as enhanced results for your product pages.
Search Console is a free Google tool that helps you measure your website’s traffic and performance in search results. If you’re curious what the exact queries are that people are searching to find your dispensary, this is the place to do it.
The performance data is a potential goldmine for your content strategy. As an example, let’s say you notice you’re getting significant impressions for the query “best strains for creativity” but you’re not getting any clicks. This could be an opportunity to create a page specifically about this topic, providing searchers an answer to what they’re looking for.
Search Console will also alert you to any issues Google has with crawling and indexing the pages of your site.
Google recently added a new feature to Search Console that shows rankings for product results, snippets, and review snippets. You can view the traffic you get from these features by filtering by “Search Appearance.” If you are using an iFrame menu, you will not be eligible for enhanced features like product and review snippets.
In 2020, Google started rolling out mobile-first indexing, which means Google looks at how your website performs on smartphones to determine how your pages are indexed and ranked.
The most popular way to ensure your site is mobile-friendly is to use responsive design. The same HTML code is served on the same URL no matter what device the user is on, and the page can display the content differently based on the screen size. It's the easiest design pattern to maintain.
Most eCommerce purchases happen on a mobile device. For this reason, Dispense designs and builds everything mobile-first for a mobile-optimized shopping experience.
Did you know page speed is an SEO ranking factor? The faster your homepage loads, for instance, the better the experience visitors will have. And the higher you rank thanks to fast page speeds, the more traffic you’ll get.
Dispense has the most performant menus in cannabis, with average page load speeds under 2 seconds. The highest eCommerce conversion rates occur on pages with 0-2s load times. Read more about why page speed matters for your cannabis menu.
Internal links help search engines crawl your pages easier, learn the hierarchy and structure of your site along the way. These links also offer users the opportunity to navigate to other pages they might be interested in.
Linking internally between pages on your website is a relatively easy way to improve rankings as these links help to distribute authority throughout the site. As an example, let’s say you hyperlink from a blog post to a page about concentrates using “concentrates” as the click-able anchor text. This SEO tactic helps the search engines understand that the page being linked to is about concentrates, which can help that page rank better.
Earning links from other websites that point to yours (i.e., backlinks) is arguably the most challenging aspect of SEO. It takes time and there are no guarantees of results. Backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors as they’re seen as “votes of confidence” by search engines. The more backlinks you have from reputable, trustworthy websites, the more likely your dispensary is to rank higher.
There are various methods to build links, including these common ones:
Chances are that Google will be where you get most of your organic traffic. The first step for local SEO success is setting up a Google Business Profile for your dispensary. It’s free and has a significant impact on local rankings, so fill out your profile as completely as possible. Tip: the business category is the #1 ranking factor for the local pack (block of map listings), and dispensaries should choose “Cannabis store” for the category.
Google reviews are also a big part of local SEO, but just like link building, earning them is a challenge. The more quality reviews you have and the better quality they are (4+ stars), the higher your dispensary will rank in local search results. Here are a few ways to get reviews:
Aside from the Google Business Profile, it’s a good idea to list your dispensary in other directories. Dispensary searches often return listings for Yelp, Weedmaps, and Leafly. List your dispensary on these sites and you’ll expand your search visibility and get a backlink from each in the process.
As a dispensary, you should have a location page on your website. If you have more than one store, consider a separate page for each location. Provide information like your operating hours, the storefront address, contact information, driving directions, parking availability, and an embedded Google map. Anything that customers would find helpful. To take it a step further, create Schema markup for each location page.
With time, effort, and planning, your dispensary website will climb its way to the top of Google search results, and reap the rewards with increased traffic, visibility, and revenue. But starting a dispensary is already time-consuming enough. Good news is the experts at Cannabis Creative Group can help, so you can focus on what you do best: connecting with your consumers and selling cannabis.